AFC West Week 8: Peyton Manning on top of his Game
by Nate Winkler (@natewinkler)
CHFF Sticky-Icky Statistical Stud
Week 8 finds the AFC West in a state of flux. The Oakland Raiders were the only team in the division that played last week, rallying to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime to improve to 2-4. The Kansas City Chiefs are going to try to "Win With Quinn" in a game that will shut the door on their season if they can't beat the Raiders at home.
The Denver Broncos host Archie's team, the New Orleans Saints, in a prime-time matchup between two of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history. The scoreboard operator at Mile High better bring his A-game.
Lastly, the reeling San Diego Chargers head to Cleveland to face a stubborn Browns team that has competed hard in every contest despite having a single victory to show for it. All hell will break loose for the Chargers if they lose focus and get bitten by the Browns.
Here are 5 Things to Expect:
1. Peyton Manning will continue to play the quarterback position as good as anyone in the league, his neck and age be damned.
Since getting intercepted three times in the first half at Atlanta back in Week 3, Manning has been picked off just once in the last 18 quarters. Here’s thrown for 300+ yards in a Broncos’ record four straight games and has 3 touchdown passes in each of the last three. Consider the rust officially knocked off.
We’ve created a “Composite Score” ranking below, taking six critical passing statistics, (Comp. %, Yds/Att, Yds/Game, Net Yds/Att, TD %, INT%) and ranking all 33 eligible quarterbacks in each. We then took the player’s league rankings (lower = better) from each category and added them together, then subtracted the number of wins to formulate the composite score. We've listed the traditional passer rating as well for comparison.
Using this criteria Big Brother Manning is leading the NFL in quarterback play, and it really isn’t close. Manning ranks in the top three in half of the categories and is no worse than seventh in any.
While it’s worth noting that it’s mostly the “Usual Suspects” at the top of the list, there are a few surprises. Rookie sensation Robert Griffin III comes in at eighth thanks to being the only QB with over a 70 percent completion rate. His counterpart Andrew Luck, at 30th, hasn’t had the same early success but isn’t on as good a team, either.
Manning’s new AFC West rivals, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers, are nestled right in the middle of the pack. Both will have to play better to lift their supporting casts into contention down the stretch.
Meanwhile, Kansas City’s Matt Cassel brings up the rear, ranking 30th or worse in four of the six categories. His uninspiring play has landed him on clipboard duty in favor of the dreamy Brady Quinn, who looks good in uniform and pre-game warm-ups but might be getting his last chance to do the same on the field.
2. The San Diego Chargers are looking at a real sticky situation if they choke in Cleveland.
The Chargers are in a flat spin and in real danger of having to hit the eject button on the season if they can't pull out of it, and fast. Turmoil has hit the locker room as the play-calling, leadership, and even the use of a banned "stickum" substance have all come into question since they surrendered 35 unanswered points to the visiting Broncos on Monday Night Football to end Week 6.
The Bolts travel to Cleveland to face a stingy 1-6 Browns team that has fought hard in every game but hasn't found a way to win. The Browns are 30th in Rushing Yards per Game at 79.1 despite drafting Trent Richardson fourth overall. San Diego has the second ranked rush defense, allowing just 71.2 Yards per Game and 3.53 Yds/Att (4th).
The Chargers will make Brandon Weeden, currently tied with Luck for 31st in the NFL in Passer Rating (72.3) beat them through the air even though they have the 25th ranked Defensive Passer Rating at 94.64.
San Diego will reign in the struggling Philip Rivers, whose Negative Pass Play Percentage of 11.89% is 30th in the NFL, against an opportunistic Browns defense that is 2nd in the AFC with 15 takeaways. If Ryan Matthews doesn't have 25 touches in the game somebody should steal the headset away from Norv and never give it back.
3. Stop us if you've heard this one: Romeo Crennel decides to start Brady Quinn, leading to the firing of Romeo Crennel and his GM.
Crennel was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2005-2008, where he compiled a pink-slip worthy 24-40 (.375) record. Brady Quinn was drafted under Crennel's watch, although it's worth noting Romeo did not have G.M. duties. Quinn had a hard time beating out Derek Anderson (yes, that Derek Anderson) and only appeared in four games as a Brown under Crennel. Brady the Beautiful managed just 48-97 (49.4%) passing with 563 Yards (5.81 YPA), 2 TDs, 2 INTs and a 65.78 rating.
Crennel and G.M. Phil Savage, the man who drafted Quinn, were let go in favor of Eric Mangini and GM George Kokinis. Mangini & Kokinis gave Quinn an opportunity to lead the Browns, and none of the three ever recovered. Now Crennel is in his first full year as the head Chief, and he's putting his (and likely G.M. Scott Pioli's) eggs in Quinn's basket with the hopes of turning a once promising season around.
Quinn enters Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders with a career Passer Rating of 65.4 and more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10). He'll have a good chance to get going as he faces what should be a friendly Raiders secondary. Oakland is allowing 255 Yds through the air (22nd) and 7.2 Yds/Att (t-14th) through six games and have surrendered 11 passing TDs.
4. The New Orleans Saints get their interim coach, Joe Vitt, back on the sidelines Sunday as they visit the Denver Broncos . They've missed Tracy Porter more.
The lasting image of Super Bowl XLIV is cornerback Tracy Porter intercepting Peyton Manning for the Lombardi-sealing touchdown to conclude the 2009 season for the New Orleans Saints. The fifth-year man out of Indiana left the Saints this past off-season to play opposite Champ Bailey in Denver and has been up to his old tricks already this season.
Porter began by helping Peyton's cause in his Denver debut against the Steelers back in Week 1 with a similar game clenching touchdown. Porter didn't make the trip to San Diego but should be back in action Sunday night in the Broncos secondary, who enter at 16th in the league with a Defensive Passer Rating (DPR) of 86.60.
Meanwhile, the Saints come to town with one of the worst pass defenses in the league with a 106.62 DPR. N'awlins defensive backfield is allowing over 300 yards a game through the air to every quarterback they've played this season except for Matt Cassel, who just got benched for Brady Quinn. That should be all you need to know, but you can check out this fancy table below in case you want more.
|Denver Broncos||215 (t-9th)||6.7 (10th)||11 (t-20th)||6 (t-17th)||18 (9th)|
|New Orleans Saints||305 (30th)||8.9 (32nd)||12 (t-23rd)||3 (t-26th)||12 (t-21st)|
Although Denver's pass defense is much improved from last season, Drew Brees will still be able to move the ball effectively through the air unless Von Miller and company can get to him early and often. Peyton should easily extend his streak of 300 yard games to five and will be looking for his fourth straight game with three touchdown passes or more.
5. Dennis Allen's message may finally be getting across as the Raiders have confidence after rallying for a victory last week.
Sure it was against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, and yeah they lost their starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert and defending NFL Rushing Champion Maurice Jones-Drew to injury during the contest, but don't let that cloud your optimism if you're a fan of the Silver and Black.
Carson Palmer (148/241, 1,732 Yds, 7 TDs, 4 INTs, 86.0 Passer Rating) hasn't thrown multiple interceptions in a game this season, something none of the other quarterbacks in the AFC West can claim. He should be licking his chops to play the Kansas City Chiefs, who are tied for dead-last in the NFL with New Orleans, giving up 8.9 Yds/Pass Att. The Chiefs have surrendered 13 passing TDs in 6 games and have managed to force only four interceptions (23rd) and 13 sacks (t-18th).
The Raiders have less penalties (40) than 75 percent of the NFL and rank 7th in Penalty Yardage (311), which means that Allen's "tough love" style might be paying off for the Raiders after decades of being undisciplined. They still need to find a way to get Darren McFadden more involved in the offense, as he's averaging just 81.8 Yards from scrimmage per game this season with two touchdowns. New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has taken his share of heat but McFadden appears tender-footed and timid, perhaps trying to avoid the inevitable injury.
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